We all know that stress plays a major factor in our health and general well-being. But can stress prevent weight loss? The answer is “yes,” and stress is certainly an issue in several ways. It will prevent weight loss on a chemical, emotional, and psychological level.
How Does Stress Prevent Weight Loss?
Let’s look at this a moment and try to explain it in a way that everyone can readily understand. The first things you need to realize are the reason for your eating and how being stressed affects your eating patterns. This is the main crux of what you need to pinpoint before you can answer the question: How does stress prevent weight loss? This is because you need to figure out, and make decisions according to, your own specific patterns. It is important to understand how and why stress gets triggered in you—not someone else—because we are all so vastly different.
Understanding Your Stresses and Triggers by Journaling
Now, does this sound complicated to you? It may, but rest assured, it won’t once we explain further. Broken down, it’s actually simple! First get a journal—a tablet or, if you don’t have a tablet, a paper journal. This is because you are going to journal when you get stressed and what triggers it.
Next, in your journal, make three columns or lists. Column One is for the stressor; then, Column Two is for food cravings; and Column Three is for recording how much of it you ate. For example:
- Column One—My boyfriend and I had a fight.
- Column Two—I bankrupted myself at Ben and Jerry’s.
- Column Three—I ate two pints in one sitting.
From this entry, you would know that there is an emotional trigger to your eating as well as what cravings that trigger gives you and how much you tend to eat. Will you binge or snack? This is what you must know.
Now that you have your pattern, you know how to tackle a weight-loss problem, and you know how your stress prevents weight loss. This is the most common way.
The Role Cortisol Plays in How Stress Can Prevent Weight Loss
Another way, of which most people are unaware, is cortisol. This is a hormone that, when released into the system, creates the infamous belly fat with which so many people struggle. This hormone is released when we’re under a great deal of emotional strain – particularly when the stress is there on a regular basis. That said, it can also be released at times when we stress ourselves physically, such as by doing intense workouts or when we don’t get enough sleep at night.
Cortisol is actually known as the stress hormone. It changes several ways that our bodies function. This includes making us crave comfort foods such as fatty, salty and sugary options. Clearly, those aren’t the best foods to fit into a weight management strategy. Especially because the fatty foods we crave under those circumstances are more likely to be deep fried and not from healthy sources such as salmon!
How to Fight a Good Battle Against Cortisol
Under normal circumstances, you might find that sprinting, kickboxing or another extremely intense workout is best for burning off stress. However, when you’re already carrying stress in a chronic way, workouts at this intensity can function in opposition to your goals because they promote cortisol release. That’s right, your stress-busting workouts can actually be stressing you out!
Instead, it’s a great idea to be active, but not so much that you boost your cortisol levels and let your stress prevent your weight loss. During stressful times, try cutting stress through meditation, yoga, or other coping methods will work.
If you want something to get your heart moving, go for a brisk walk outside. Breathe the air and have a look at the birds, trees, sky and other natural features around you. Cortisol is one of the most common ways in which stress prevents weight loss, but by keeping active without stressing yourself further, you can make a big dent into its impact.
Just as you should pay attention to the natural world around you, it’s a good idea to practice mindfulness in your battle against cortisol. This can help you to avoid the trend of having stress prevent weight loss you’re trying to achieve. At the same time, this is also a highly recommended weight management technique, so it can help you in that capacity as well.
Mindfulness, at its most basic level, means that you are focused on being aware of yourself in the present. Pay attention to what you’re experiencing, from your breath to the foods you’re eating, the sounds you’re hearing, the feeling of your clothing and the sensation of your feet on the floor. Be present within your own body right now. Focus on what you’re doing and on what’s happening.
By doing this, you can help to keep your mind from wandering into unnecessary stressful directions. Instead of ruminating over things that cannot be helped, you can place your attention on the task at hand, on the flavor, texture and smell of your food, and on the sensation of the breath entering and exiting your body. It gives you the chance to set your other thoughts aside so that you can use them when they’re more appropriate. Until then, they won’t be allowed to stress you and therefore cannot prevent your weight loss.